Some 50 pilgrims have been killed in a stampede on the banks of the Godaveri river in Andhra Pradesh where they had gathered to take a dip in the holy river at the start of the Maha Pushkaralu festival.
The tragedy occurred as the first set of worshippers were emerging from the river but blocked the way of others who rushed to get into the water.
One pilgrim said the stampede lasted nearly 20 minutes and police say they were helpless and it took over an hour to bring the situation under control.
Andhra Pradesh chief minister N Chandrababu Naidu who bathed in the river earlier said he was monitoring the situation and urged people not to panic.
Pilgrims believe that taking a bath in the river will rid them of their sins, and nearly 24 million pilgrims are expected to take part in the 12-day festival.